DYKES AND SUNDRY OTHER CARBON-BASED LIFE-FORMS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Alison Bechdel, . . Alyson, $13.95 (154pp) ISBN 978-1-55583-828-7
That sprawling crew of feisty counter- and not-so-counter-culturalists are back in a 20th-anniversary collection of Bechdel's popular lesbian-themed strip. Devoted readers may be happy to find some things never change: Mo is still a social malcontent, and her colleague, Lois, is as rebellious as ever. (This time, she's tweaking Mo by pretending to consider becoming a man.) The bookstore where they work has its usual financial difficulties, and everyone still hates the president. But not all is as it once was. For one thing, same-sex marriages (well, unions) are now legal in Vermont, and one couple, Clarice and Toni, consider whether to make their relationship official in the state's eyes. Then there's Sparrow: a long-time member of the group house where Lois lives, who has fallen in love with another housemate—a man—and seems to be unexpectedly pregnant. And Ginger, an academic, is facing the purgatory of a non-tenured position at an undistinguished school; buried under papers to grade, she barely even notices when a lovely waitress at a local juice bar makes a move. While first-time readers may lack the back story that's developed over the past two decades with these and several other characters, Bechdel is a master of interwoven plot lines, and she sprinkles helpful summaries through the panels so new readers can tell where they are in the tale. An introduction covering highlights of the past 20 years illustrates how far Bechdel has come; from impressionistic sketches to work that is rich, funny, deep and impossible to put down.
Reviewed on: 11/17/2003